Burundi Refugee Now Making Afro-Pop Music in America


Willy Kubwimana

Kubwimana speaks five languages, and has learned English in less than two years by using the Google Translator app on his iPhone.

Jenny Esperanza, Reporter


HOUSTON, TEXAS – When Wisdom High School senior Willy Kubwimana and his family escaped from the Congo just after he was born in 2000, they landed at a refugee camp in the neighboring country of Burundi. It was there that he, his two brothers and a sister were raised by his mother, after his father passed away when he was young.
Then, in May of 2017, the United States government helped the Kubwimana family immigrate to America. When he arrived in Texas, he did not speak a word of English. So, he decided to learn the language by using the Google Translator app on his iPhone.
“I wanted to speed up the process of my learning, once I arrived in this country,” said Kubwimana. “I still have the app and use it every day.”
English then became the fifth language that he has become accustomed to speaking, after he added it to Swahili, French, Kirundi and Kinyarwanda that he learned by hanging around all the other refugees in Burundi.
And that is not his only talent. The 19-year-old sings Afro-Pop – the music of his native land that is a mixture of African Beat Pop music. He started to dive further into his music, when he went with his friends here in Houston to a studio, and they asked him if he wanted to produce something.
“At first, I said no. But then I changed my mind. So now I write my own songs,” he said. With the help of his producer Morici Grevis, Kubwimana recently released his first song titled “Cheat on Me” on YouTube:


He prefers to go by the stage name “Willy Maybe” when playing sounds with his group “Washa” that consists of himself, and his friends Dwara, DJ Sam and Sugu Fresh.

Willy Kubwimana
Kubwimana (top left) with his group “Washa”

“People think I am not capable of doing big things like making music.” But Willy has big dreams and believes he knows how to accomplish them, even despite what might seem like impossible odds. “Believe in yourself and believe in God, and everything will be possible,” he said.
The immigrant from the Congo is on track to graduate from Wisdom in May. He has applied to continue his studies at both Houston Community College and the University of Houston, with the goal of become a social worker and to help others legally immigrate to America.
“But if my music career takes off, you never know,” said Kubwimana. “I hope that maybe someday people will like my style. I try to mix African and American beats, to create a unique sound.”